Stephen Carter feels reasonably confident that he won't have lost out when a new pay system replaces management allowances at the start of next year.
The head of RE at Branksome comprehensive in Darlington is paid two management allowance points. His school has just started reviewing its staffing structure and Mr Carter won't know if his job will change or how much he will be paid until that's completed. But he believes that, whatever the new structure looks like, he will probably still be managing the RE curriculum come January. That should put him in line for one of the new teaching and learning responsibility payments (TLRs). Although, with only one other teacher in his department, he doubts if he will be in the top TLR1 band.
"I'm guessing but I think I'll be in the middle of TLR 2 ," he says, "and that will equate more or less to what I get now."
However, thousands of teachers around the country could be facing pay cuts, because there is no guarantee that somebody on a management allowance will get a similar TLR payment when the new system starts. In fact, some teachers will not receive any financial reward at all for their responsibilities - although they are likely to be in the minority.
"I think there will be very few teachers who hold management allowances, particularly management allowances 3, 4 and 5, who will end up with no identified responsibility," says Gerald Imison, deputy general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL). "If I'm wrong and there are lots of teachers in that position, then you have to ask what they have been doing that's so important that's suddenly disappeared. But I think there will be quite a number of teachers who find that the value of their reward drops."
The union is advising members in this position to look at the values attached to other jobs in their school and make sure that there is a clear logic to how these values were determined.
"If there isn't, we will challenge those decisions," says Mr Imison.
The new system is the brainchild of the Rewards and Incentives Group (Rig), which includes all the main unions - bar the NUT and NAHT - plus government and employers' representatives. It follows on from the national agreement to reduce teachers' workload to allow them to concentrate on teaching rather than administration. TLRs are meant to reflect this change, so schools will not be able to use them to help with recruitment and retention, to reward good performance or pay for admin work.
Teachers who have been getting management allowances for these reasons and don't qualify for TLRs will have their pay safeguarded for three years. But that guarantee could end much sooner effectively because it applies to your overall salary. As you move up the main pay scale, you will be protected only until any rises you receive overtake the value of your old allowances.
To qualify for TLR payments teachers must have responsibilities for teaching and learning that go well beyond those expected of other classroom teachers. For TLR2, worth between pound;2,250 and pound;5,500, that includes developing and managing a subject or curriculum area throughout the school. TLR 1, which is set at pound;6,500-pound;11,000, will be available only to those acting as line managers for a "significant" number of people.
But even if a job meets these requirements, there is no guarantee that it will attract a TLR payment. The staffing reviews that schools in England are expected to carry out by the end of this year will give them a chance to decide how many leadership group posts, advanced skills teachers, excellent teachers and other jobs they will need, and whether TLRs should be part of the mix. If such posts are included, it's up to each school to decide on the number of points or payment levels within the two TLR bands, and the cash value of each one.In other words, the new system gives schools much more discretion over pay than they have now when each management allowance point has a fixed value.
The NUT, which was excluded from Rig because it has not signed up to the workload agreement, warns that this discretion threatens to undermine the national pay structure for teachers and could lead to inconsistencies both within and between schools. The union also says that the new system will affect all teachers, not just existing management allowance holders. Barry Fawcett, the union's assistant secretary, points out that some schools will need to reallocate duties when they move from management allowances to TLRs.
"That could have an impact on other teachers, including not only those without management allowances but also teachers on the leadership spine," he says. "So there is the potential for all teachers in a school to be affected."
What's more, with Rig saying that it expects the new payments to end up costing less nationally than today's allowances, it looks as if there be fewer promotion prospects.
It's also not clear how teachers who now get management allowances for pastoral work will fare under the new regime. The teachers' pay and conditions document says that leading and managing pupil development across the curriculum is one of the factors that schools should consider when awarding TLRs. While that delphic utterance has left many heads of year feeling anxious about their future, the Secondary Heads Association is confident that most pastoral jobs will meet the TLR criteria.
"The days when there was a big divide between pastoral and academic work have gone," says SHA's general secretary, John Dunford, "and pastoral staff now have a clear interest in children's academic progress.
"There may be some pastoral posts that do not include a teaching and learning element and are not eligible, but my guess is that those will be very few or that job descriptions could be changed."
Nobody knows for sure how one of the biggest-ever shake-ups of the teachers' pay system is going to work out. That's the main worry for teachers right now, says John Paul, science and upper junior co-ordinator at Barming primary school in Maidstone, Kent.
As a member of the ATL executive, Mr Paul knows more than most about the coming changes, but he has no idea how they will affect his own job, which carries two management points.
He believes that his head will do his best to make sure that Barming's new structure causes staff as little disruption as possible. But with the lowest possible TLR payment worth around pound;600 more than a management allowance 1, and with all the other demands on the school's budget, it won't be easy to keep everyone happy.
"It's going to be tight and there could well be staff here - and I might be among them - who will not be as well off as they are at the moment," says Mr Paul. "But I don't know what will happen, and that's the concern."